By Jennifer Popplewell •
Published: 08 Nov 2023 • 11:07
AS the title suggests, many grandparents around the world are currently pitching their tents on the picket line, as they say that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH regarding colossal child care expectations.
Their baffled bosses, or technically, their own children, sit scratching their heads, wondering where it all went wrong for them, as it seems their parents might not be so eager to take on the same role and responsibilities as their grandparents once did, many moons ago.
Jump back in time a century or so, and the Western world looks quite distinct. In a 1901 census of the UK it was reported that only 30 per cent of adult females were in some sort of employment, compared to 73 per cent currently in 2023. Many women prided themselves on being ‘homemakers’, cooking, cleaning and raising children. As those children grew and had babies of their own, the grandmother would naturally help to look after them, as she showed her daughter the most important skills she had learned in her life.
Euro Weekly News spoke to Dora O’Hegarty, aged 81 from Cork, Ireland, who told us that her grandmother treated her and her siblings like her own children. “Life was simple back then and family was all you had. Don’t think we didn’t have a laugh like, I’ll tell you we had a better childhood than these modern kids! My mam was always cooking for us all in the kitchen, with her mam helping her, she was always there”.
As this chart shows, a far higher percentage of women work in the labour force in this decade across the entire globe, than 100 years ago. This immense change cannot be taken lightly, nor can the impact it has had on the social construct of society. Grandmothers who may have otherwise been at home knitting or baking a cake are now working nine to five, counting the days down until pension day and a little rest! Sharon Hall, a successful financial advisor who has been working for the past 45 years, explained to Euro Weekly News that “I have worked hard for most of my life and I am proud of everything I have achieved, I also raised my two children during this time as a single mother”. Sharon went on to say that “now my daughter has children, and I love being the fun Granny that takes them to Disneyland for their birthday, I am not there all of the time, but that means I can give them 100 per cent when I am with them, whilst still pursuing my career and lifestyle with no childcare responsibilities.” When asked what her daughter makes of this, she replied that “she is very grateful for all the help I give her and she knows it would not be possible without me working, we are modern women in this family and I taught her that she can have it all!”
Unfortunately, many other ‘modern mothers’ do not feel the same. EWN spoke to Louise Ragen, aged 27 who told us that she has to “beg” her parents for any type of childcare for her three children. However when ‘said parents’ were asked for their comment, they complained to Euro Weekly News that they feel they are “being taken advantage of” and wish to have some “years of well deserved rest after decades of working.”
Clearly there is a generational clash here, perhaps caused by the sudden change in society and social circumstances. Young mothers are feeling abandoned and yet grandparents are feeling the pressure to perform, with the term ‘Granny Burnout’ even popping up from a recent blog by Galway consultant rheumatologist, Dr Ronan Kavanagh, titled ‘Granny Burnout: A new Occupational Disorder?’. In it he suggests this is by no means an isolated incident and that elderly women everywhere are currently being exploited by their own children.
However, is the clash solely generational? Many cultures around the world still hold to these old traditions and family values. Living in Spain, especially the south of Andalucia, one will find many a Spanish ‘abuela’ still spending her days cooking in the kitchen, surrounded by a tribe of grandchildren.
The percentage of working women from the ages of 45 to 70 years old in Spain is reported to be just 32 per cent, compared to the UK equivalent being 63 per cent, nearly double. Euro Weekly News spoke to Rosie Wall, a mother of two children that are half English and half Spanish. “The difference in the two grandmothers is radical”, she stated, “one of them is career minded and travels the world whilst the other has no desire to leave her village and will happily care for all her grandchildren day in day out”. Following the official figures, it does make sense as to why this pattern would exist.
However, Manuel Pastrana, leader of the UGT general workers’ union in the southern region of Andalucia, famously declared some years ago that, “we want grandparents to strike to prove they are a key part of the way this country functions” As he promoted the slogans “Learn to say no and “don’t feel guilty” that were aimed at what he called “babysitter grandparents”.
For the many frustrated parties on both ends of this ‘clash’, the internet has been the chosen intermediator to settle the debate. Consequently, as is common online, fierce support has come in waves for…both sides. A common ‘Reddit’ topic titled Am I The Asshole? (AITA?) has recently seen a surge in thread posts regarding grandparents caring for their grandchildren. One user asked “AITA for wanting to be paid to look after my grandchildren?” It received a frenzy of attention, with thousands of votes and comments pitching for either side. One user argued that it was “only fair” for her to expect some compensation, whilst another declared that “this world has gone down the drain, what happened to family support?”. A father of two infamously asked, “AITA if I take my mother to court for not helping with her grandchildren?” This was received with a slightly less ambiguous response however, as almost all voted him as, YES, TA!
Contrary to user4343BMW’s suspicions, grandparents in fact CANNOT be taken to court and forced to perform unpaid childcare. Therefore, each person is left to make their own decisions and opinions on the matter. However, with the cost of living continuing to rise, and both genders all around the world having to work longer, it seems a magic solution may not arrive tomorrow. Perhaps young people need to consider this new reality before they make their decision to bring a baby into this world? Or, some could argue that the older generation stop acting selfishly and remember the support they themselves got when they were raising their own children.
Either way, for now the childcare clash continues, in homes around the world and of course, on Reddit.
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Jennifer is a proud northerner from Sheffield, England, who is currently living in Spain. She loves swimming in rivers, talking to the stars and eating luxurious chocolate.
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